Undisputably the highlight of the 2000 Jerusalem Film Festival, David Fisher’s “Love Inventory” is a riveting documentary, both thematically and technically, that renders the lines between fictional and nonfictional cinema almost irrelevant. Winner of the 2000 Wolgin Prize for Best Documentary, film is structured as a multi-layered emotional journey taken by four brothers and one sister to find the grave of their brother, who died in infancy, and search for information about his twin sister, who disappeared shortly after their births in 1951. “Love Inventory” should travel the global festival road as a sampler of the provocative contemporary Israeli cinema, and it also deserves theatrical distribution in cities with large Jewish and Israeli populations.
Since the film’s time frame almost parallels the history of the state of Israel (established in 1948), pic offers an intriguing socio-cultural context for the five protagonists who are taking an introspective look at their past while undergoing a deep psychological transformations in the present.
Saga could have easily adopted a Pirandellian subtitle “Six Characters in Search of an Author” since the focus is on siblings who throughout their lives have felt that something is missing, that their family history — and hence their own personal lives — is incomplete.
On one level, the yarn works as a thriller in which an obsessive brother, David, gradually rallies his entire family behind his ambitious cause of finding out about their eldest twin siblings. On another more satisfying emotional level, “Love Inventory” works as an intense serio comedy that dissects one family’s tangled web of relationships that keep changing as the search continues.
The Fisher’s parents are Eastern European immigrants, refugees from the Holocaust who upon their arrival in Israel decided to have a large family. The mother, Mali, gave birth to twins: The baby boy died at 10 months, but there’s no known grave, and the baby girl disappeared without a trace, with only rumors and bits of information that Mali periodically disclosed to her other children.
When the story proper begins, the sister arrives from New York and undergoes a divorce, which explains her growing affection for her male siblings. In one of many candid moments, she’s ambiguous about the haunting investigation — which takes them to numerous hospitals, cemeteries, and bureaucracies — realizing that as the only daughter she gets her brothers’ undivided attention, which might change if their missing sister is found alive.
Three of the brothers are pros: a producer-director, a lawyer and a journalist; the fourth, the baby brother, is problematic (nicknamed a meshigener, i.e. crazy), an aspiring actor who the other siblings worry about. What’s beyond doubt is the love and commitment that the siblings share for each other.
In the course of the film, which is periodically punctuated by David’s humorous and ironic narration, we get to know the siblings well, their dreams, fears and anxieties. One of docu’s great qualities is its sheer unpredictability. Toward the end, the boy’s grave is found and a record is finally retrieved of the baby girl’s birth in an old book, erased and written over in a manner that raises serious suspicions of wrongdoing.
Stylish and technically accomplished enough to compete with documentaries shown in major festivals around the world, “Love Inventory” is a gem that does Israeli cinema proud.